Let's Do the Right Thing

Newspaper reports of last week's intensive two-day meeting of the town-appointed committee discussing the renaming of Airport Road to Martin Luther King Boulevard offered few suprises. A majority of the committee supported the renaming in the first place, and three members with businesses on future MLK Blvd are opposed, but all agreed to enter into the process with an open mind.

However, the three people who are worried about the financial impact of the change simply chose not to believe the group facilitator when she presented information that quelled their stated concerns. Mail to "Airport Road" will continue to be delivered, old maps will continue to exist, and new maps can clearly state "Martin Luther King Boulevard (Old Airport Road)," etc. It seems ot me that there are many clear remedies to their concerns and yet they will not budge. One has to wonder if they have other objections that are not being stated.

Getting an official, written explanation from the U.S. Postal Service on how the road change would affect mail delivery was one of the steps that the group requested. There was some conflicting information on that question on Saturday.

Facilitator Gita Gulati-Partee said she had been told by a postal official that mail sent to an Airport Road address always would be forwarded to the same address after the name change, with no time limit in the future. A committee member said that might be true only for one year after an address change. -Chapel Hill Herald, 11/6/04

And after the postal issue is resolved, what will be the next straw man?

Town Council Member Sally Greene wrote an excellent piece about this on her blog today. She points out that our community has a real, local connection to Dr. King. He visited Chapel Hill, spoke in Northside and on the UNC campus, and had a tangible impact on the local debate over race relations in the 60's.

The Rev. J.R. Manley of the First Baptist Church said, "It was like a new creation. He was able to energize people, and after he left it stayed around. It didn't die down for a very long time." Further, he said, "People were angry. There was a whole lot of hate, and I think he helped change that hate, helped to transform those bad energies to focus them into something positive."

Chapel Hill had become one of the focal points for the national civil rights movement. The nation's eyes were on Chapel Hill in those days, but as Joe Straley recalled, "we had to live here once [the national leaders] were gone." It was King's inspiration that sustained the movement locally long after he went on to the next town--and sustains it today. - GreeneSpace, 11/8/04

Is Chapel Hill ready to do the right thing?


Why not just rename Estes and be done with it!

MLK would think all ya'all are silly.

Baptist preachers don't mess around.

I really don't understand the furor over this renaming.

Well, if I had a business on Airport Road and all of my paperwork had to be changed, I might resent the cost. It's not clear to me whether or not the info above would be sufficient to deal with it. Would all map books and online yellow pages, etc, continue to resolve both names? Somehow, as a software developer, I seriously doubt it.

But that's really a well-bounded problem. If financial hardship is the issue, why not set up a fund that folks who support the name change can donate to in order to offset these costs?

I'd be willing to contribute.

I agree with Bill. It does seem unfair that the businesses on Airport Rd. should bear the brunt of the cost of renaming. But who would administer such a fund?

Actually the Town has already offerred to create and administer just such a fund to help businesses on Airport Road.

Considering the improtance of this street as an artery in town, and as the future front door of Carolina North, I can't imagine that the name change will be lost in obscurity.

This area has been lucky enough never to have an area code change, but that happens regularly. I was working at a business that went from 704 (which used to be for all of western NC) to 828 (when Charlotte got to keep 704). It was an expense and a pain, especially with letterhead and envelopes, but manageable.

It's especially helpful that the old address will still be recognized. And if the post office says that it will deliver things addressed to 12 Airport Road, Chapel Hill, to 12 MLK Rd, Chapel Hill, that shouldn't be a problem.

I think the town's offer to help businesses financially is a great offer and more than is given to folks when their area code changes (which is nothing).

Estes Drive should be renamed MLK Blvd. It will be a front street to Carolina North.

No charge.

Actually what I said at the first council meeting where this was discussed was:"just because you are against it doesn't mean you are racist."
Later (after several more council meetings where comments were heard) when speaking to a reporter I said that some of the arguments against the road renaming were, I thought, disingenuous and were disguising racist motives.
I have always defended people's right to be against the road re-naming because they were "stick-in-the-muds" (just didn't like change) aposition that I ofetn gravitate toward.
Remember, the post office will continue to deliver mail addressed to Airport Rd. indefinitely. AND people can call the road whatever they like for as long as they like regardless of the official name....

So has the decision to re-name the road been finalized yet? I have found some of the comments regarding the re-naming of the road distasteful--Cam Hill in particular comes to mind. His comment (paraphrased) that "if you are against it, it is because you are racist" is the sort of rhetoric that turns people off even if you are for renaming the road.

I think the better way to have addressed the issue would be to break the question into 2 parts;

1. Do you favor renaming Airport Road? Yes/No

2. If yes, would you be willing to re-name the road after MLK?

If mail will still be delivered to "Airport Road" and everyone can still call the road "Airport Road", why not just "dedicate" Airport Road to MLK, like the Michael Jordan highway in Wilmington?

Also, I'm not sure if it's the duty for Town Council Members to pass judgement on the motives or reasoning behind the objections of its constituents.

Finally, it said in the CH News that a number of the proponents of the name change don't even live in Chapel Hill-is this true?

I think that some were concerned about the name change because MLK boulevards frequently run through depressed areas in this county. I'm pleased to live in a Town that will be one of the first to change that.

I have seen a suggestion that the library be renamed to honor MLK (http://chapelhillnews.com/opinion/story/1815147p-8121659c.html).

Since Chapel Hill is a small "village", renaming the library Martin Luther King, Jr. Public Library would seem to be a more intimate solution. There could be a nice big sign that everyone could see and some kind of commemorative monument. However, I think the road leading up to it should remain Library Rd. (It's not really a road, it's more like a driveway).

I think this is a way that the entire town can be involved. Didn't we vote recently to improve the library? Maybe some of these funds can be used to make the change.

If you really think that the mail will be forwarded indefinitely Cam, don't write any reality checks, they will bounce 30 feet in the air. The post office commits to forwarding mail for a year, but in my personal experience after three months I stopped receiving all the mail. I get about 80% of the mail sent to me. By the way, the correct grammar is sticks-in-the-mud. If you think that this is the reason they are against it, you obviously haven't been listening.

Laura, this isn't the same as forwarding mail when you move. It's delivering the mail to same place they have been doing it for years. Not too complicated. If you chose not to believe several public officials who have confirmed that the mail will still be delivered to MLK Blvd, than you'ee not going to believe any of your neighbors about it either. I don't see the point of arguing against attitudes that are apparently decided by something other than the facts.

Interesting, but the "several public officials" you mention cannot seem to find agreement with the US Postal Service. The Post Office has already confirmed that mail will be forwarded for one year after the address change. After that, it will be returned to sender since the address DOES NOT EXIST. It is exactly the same thing as a move. It is not an "arguing of attitudes apparently decided by something other than facts". It is instead the simple fact that the "public officials" have no control and/or influence with the US Postal Service, and they are clearly speaking of things that they, like you, do not understand. When it comes to the subject of the mail, I have more faith in the US Postmaster General to understand policy and procedure than I do in the members of the Chapel Hill Town Council.

So what is the tangible benefit to renaming? How does it house the homeless, feed anyone, cloth anyone, create better paying jobs, or raise end of grade test scores? And keep the "symbolic" stuff out of the answer. Stick to things, other than streetsigns, that people can touch with their hands.


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